BWF World Tour Finals 2018: Sameer Verma’s Splendid Show
No doubt, 2018 has been Sameer Verma’s breakthrough year. Used to operating in the shadow of his illustrious compatriots, Srikant, Prannoy and Sai Praneeth, few noticed that he was the only Indian shuttler with three Tour titles under his belt in 2018 (the Swiss Open, the Hyderabad Open, and the Syed Modi International).
Along the way, he also scalped a number of heavy-weights: Kento Momota, Shi Yuqi, and Jonatan Christie, to name a few.
Unfortunately for Verma, a slew of injuries and some ordinary results meant that he had to win the last tournament (Syed Modi) to qualify for the Tour Finals. This he did in some style, beating Lu Guangzu, 16-21, 21-19, 21-14, to book his ticket to China.
In the BWF World Tour Finals, Verma finally took centre-stage. After a less than ordinary outing against Momota, he blew away Sugiarto and Wangcharoen in straight games, to progress to the semi-finals.
Here, against Shi Yuqi, the 2018 All England winner, he put a show of sublime skills to reach match-point, only to falter at the final hurdle, losing 21-12, 20-22, 17-21.
What does he do now for an encore in 2019?
Cultivate a positive mindset: For someone who has been active on the circuit since 2011, Verma looks surprisingly diffident and timid on-court. His slight physical frame is of no help in a sport peopled with athletic bodies of the likes of Viktor Axelson and Chen Long.
What he needs to remember is that badminton is as much of a mind-game as a physical one. A bit of swagger would help his cause.
Develop a ‘killer’ shot: As of now, Verma is a counter-puncher. His game works best against opponents who engage in long rallies, as then his defensive skill-set comes into play. At the elite level, this is simply not enough.
He needs to vary his pace, inject sudden doses of aggression and improve his net-play to win consistently, and win big.
Listen to his body: In the past, Verma has been guilty of over-training, leading to shoulder and back injuries. To achieve his full potential, he needs to carefully calibrate his training routine and tournament schedule.
Verma’s story is the stuff of dreams—the small-town boy from Dhar replicating the David vs. Goliath showdown with grit, determination and steely resolve. With the Olympics looming, he should build on his success and take his game to the next level!